I recently sat down with a group of students from a variety of college and universities to discuss career strategies and goal-setting. The topic quickly turned into a Q/A about the state of HR. The following is an excerpt from the event.
- How would you describe human resources to someone who isn’t in the field? HR isn’t just HR anymore. Students might think of it as the pay and benefits people or the folks who watchdog the company handbook. That’s true, but it’s only a small percentage of what the profession offers. HR is also Marketing and Communications and Digital Strategy with elements of IT, Legal, Finance, and Big Data-management sprinkled in. If you want a diverse and interesting career, there’s no better place to plug into.
- Talent Management seems to be a hot area. How do you define it?While some HR leaders view it as simply recruiting or development, it actually touches entire employee lifecycle. This begins with sourcing the right talent, assessing and hiring the best, and then on-boarding them into the organization. But that’s just the beginning. It also includes training them for the role, assessing performance, and aligning compensation and advancement opportunities to that output. Finally, it requires thoughtful, long-term talent review, development, and success planning processes to drive retention. Many people build their entire careers around this one specialty.
- Why is talent management so important in today’s corporate climate? As I describe in my article, The Talent Funnel (Wiley Journal of Global Business and Organizational Excellence) it is akin to the sales funnel. When HR leaders think like business people they realize that talent acquisition has the same drivers and costs as customer acquisition. It makes much more sense to develop and retain key talent than source, hire and train new ones. These dynamics make the HR work vital.
- What HR positions are typically responsible for talent management, and what are some of their job duties related to talent management? Everyone plays a part. While the CHRO is ultimately accountable for the process, responsibility for various parts is held in different roles including staffing, training, compensation, leadership development, talent management and succession planning. Non-traditional areas also play a key role like workforce analytics which provides the data to make fact-based decisions on talent. Of course, HRBP or generalists are responsible for implementing programs with their client groups.
- What HR tasks do you perform most often? As a CHRO, I get involved in all aspects of HR as well as various aspects of general management that has little to do with the field. Most folks out of school will either go into business partner roles and take on a variety of employee relations and cyclical activities e.g. performance management, or choose a specialty like compensation, staffing, or training and build a career around that.
- What do you like most about working in HR? The variety and challenge of the work. One day I’ll need to dive deep into an issue like working an organization design project. The next, I’ll go broad, to navigate an HR vendor portfolio.
- What changes or developments do you expect to see in HR in the next five years? There is an explosion of HR technology and big data right now. The future will see us being better able to draw meaningful insights from that information. On the softer side, HR has to take the lead in healing the rift between employees i.e. the spill over from the political and social challenges of the day. This is not to say a company or HR rep should take sides. However, by developing hiring, promotion, and compensation processes that are transparent and fair you can help ensure there is no longer an issue to address. Broadening the scope of diversity as I describe in my TEDx talk can also help with this mindset change.
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